Rapid identification by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of cancer cells at low concentrations flowing in a microfluidic channel

Reliable identification and collection of cells from bodily fluids is of growing interest for monitoring patient response to therapy and for early detection of disease or its recurrence. We describe a detection platform that combines microfluidics with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) for the identification of individual mammalian cells continuously flowing in a microfluidics channel. A mixture of cancerous and noncancerous prostate cells was incubated with SERS biotags (SBTs) developed and synthesized by us, then injected into a flow-focused microfluidic channel, which forces the cells into a single file. The spectrally rich SBTs are based on a silver nanoparticle dimer core labeled with a Raman-active small reporter molecule paired with an affinity biomolecule, providing a unique barcode whose presence in a composite SERS spectrum can be deconvoluted. Individual cancer cells passing through the focused laser beam were correctly identified among a proportionally larger number of other cells by their Raman signatures. We examine two deconvolution strategies: principal component analysis and classical least-squares. The deconvolution strategies are used to unmix the overall spectrum to determine the relative contributions between two SBT barcodes, where one SBT barcode indicates neuropilin-1 overexpression, while a second SBT barcode is more universal and indicates unspecific binding to a cell’s membrane. Highly reliable results were obtained for all of the cell mixture ratios tested, the lowest being 1 in 100 cells.

A. Pallaoro, M. R. Hoonejani, G. B. Braun, C. D. Meinhart, and M. Moskovits
ACS Nano
Volume: 9
Number: 4
Pages: 4328–4336
Date: March, 2015
ICB Affiliated Authors: Carl D Meinhart, Martin Moskovits